In an unassuming house in East Vancouver, a table is being set in a wallpapered living room that has been converted into a pop-up dining space. Toby Neumann cuts fresh flowers while her partner, chef Tobias Grignon prepares gnocchi by hand on their kitchen counter. This is an intimate space, a home welcoming guests to experience menus conceptualized and executed by the pair.
Cabinet doors have been removed for ease of access to ingredients and carefully curated plate ware. Everything is labelled and organized, and the charcoal pit behind the garden is stoked and prepped for the vegetarian tasting menu that is to come. The air is fragrant from the warm, homemade bread being toasted on the barbeque; guests are treated to a drink on the backyard deck overlooking the garden. It feels as though you are at your friend’s house.
This is the concept behind Rabbit’s Foot, a name casually suggested by Tobias’ 10 year old son over coffee one year ago. Tobias explains, “Rabbit’s foot is not a diner, but it’s also not a pretentious fine dining place either and [the name] just felt right. It also is enigmatic. It kind of tells you everything but doesn’t tell you anything.”
To that point, guests don’t even know what they will be tasting until it is placed in front of them. Themes of non traditional brunch, tasting menus, and collaborations are proposed monthly on a first come, first served basis. This is a playground, an opportunity to taste and test concepts.
The couple lived in the apartment downstairs before taking over the top floor of the household. Looking for a change, it was Toby who came up with the idea to host pop-up events.
“I needed to find out who I am as a chef again, I needed to find my voice.”
For Tobias, this was an opportunity to practice: “I needed to find out who I am as a chef again, I needed to find my voice.” Coming down from a tenure and working long hours, the confirmation of a day job meant this vision could become a reality. With the availability of the upstairs space, the couple jumped at the opportunity to set up shop. Sometimes good timing and a bit of luck go a long way.
The response has been unanimously positive and this consistent reception is the strongest of Tobias’ career as a chef. While the pop-up concept has resonated well with guests who attend, the real struggle is in getting people to know and trust that a house in East Vancouver has an amazing dining service.
While others have done supper clubs in the city, none have opened their homes to do so. Operating under the supper club model, Rabbit’s Foot runs on a donation basis to cover the costs for these gatherings that take place primarily through word of mouth. Friends and strangers alike are always welcome.
This is a balanced act and Toby puts her full creative effort into planning, prep, and social media.
“I was a very creative person for a long time and [...] this is actually bringing me back to it. He always comes up with the menu itself and ideas but he actually listens to my input which is quite impressive for someone of his caliber and experience”. To this, Tobias puts down his knife and interjects, “Toby is a great editor. Every creative person needs a great editor to keep them focused and totally understands my creative process”. After all, she is the one who brought this entrepreneurial vision to life.
Campfire potatoes 3 ways
Seated at a communal table with new dining companions, all courses are served with a story and interpretation. Having grown up in a vegetarian household, the ‘Campfire potatoes 3 ways’ are an ode to Tobias’ upbringing and the absence of meat is surely not missed in the hearty and seasonal dishes plated from the garden. “You’re getting a dining experience you can’t get anywhere else [...] The way I get to cook here is not the way I would get to cook in a restaurant”. And that’s why cabbage has been slow roasting in the backyard for the past 3 hours.
Left to Right:
- Sunchoke and fennel custard, garden nasturtiums, pecorino
- Fresh garden peas, pea tip pesto, cashew cream
- Goat cheese dumplings, tomato vine broth
- Strawberry olive oil sorbet, buckwheat crepe, summer fruits, lemon verbena
For more info: facebook.com/rabbitsfootyvr
Words by Melissa Gagné
Photos by Olivia Sari-Goerlach